US basketball

Firefighters who photographed Kobe Bryant crash scene to be fired

Reuters
Firefighters who photographed Kobe Bryant crash scene to be fired

IN MEMORIAM. A fan looks at the mural of Kobe Bryant in an alley near Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.

Photo by Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

Reports say first responders took pictures of the victims and showed them to other people in situations unrelated to the crash investigation

Two Los Angeles County firefighters accused of taking pictures of Kobe Bryant’s helicopter crash scene have been notified that they would be fired and a third was given a suspension notice, according to a filing in a lawsuit brought by his widow.

Bryant, 41, a retired, 18-time All-Star for the National Basketball Association’s Los Angeles Lakers, was killed along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and all seven others aboard a helicopter that crashed in foggy weather north of Los Angeles on January 26, 2020.

His widow, Vanessa Bryant, sued Los Angeles County following media reports that first responders took pictures of the victims and showed them to other people in situations unrelated to the crash investigation.

Bryant first sued the Sheriff’s Department, alleging deputies used their personal cellphones to take pictures of the dead “for their own personal gratification.” 

The suit was later amended to add the county fire department, accusing firefighters of similar acts.

A filing in the lawsuit, dated Monday, May 10, and reported by NBC News on Wednesday, makes reference to fire department investigation reports sent to the three disciplined firefighters last year.

“The letters announce an ‘intention to discharge’ two of the recipients and an ‘intention to suspend’ the third,” said the document that Bryant’s lawyers filed in US District Court for the Central District of California.

The filing said it only referenced the letters, rather than attach them as exhibits, to respect privacy concerns raised by the defendants and to avoid further paperwork.

The fire department did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment. NBC News said a spokesman for the department declined to comment because litigation was pending and he could not confirm whether the firefighters were fired or suspended.

Vanessa Bryant has also filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the operator of the helicopter. 

Bryant’s attorneys, who are suing Los Angeles County for negligence and invasion of privacy, said new information has come to light. 

“Mrs. Bryant has since learned that the number of LASD and [LA County Fire Department] employees who took, shared, and/or possessed improper photos of the accident scene is actually 18 (and counting) and that 66 County employees have relevant knowledge of the misconduct,” said the filing submitted in federal court.

Four sheriff’s deputies already have been named in the lawsuit. Bryant could add other first responders to the suit because of new information.

Bryant states in the lawsuit that she is seeking punitive damages against the defendants “to punish them and make an example of them to the community.” – Rappler.com